Modern medicine is just beginning to acknowledge the fact that 80% of the immune system is localized in the digestive tract. Ayurveda has recognized that for thousands of years.
Ayurveda, the “Science of Life”, describes the immune system as the balanced functions of three subtle energies: Prana (universal principle of energy or force), Tejas (brilliance), and Ojas, (vital energy). In order to maintain wellness, Ayurveda teaches that the body must maintain balance, and that all balance is rooted in digestion and nourishment.
Strong immunity is a product of good digestion. Two primary forces are at work within the digestive system: Ojas, that vital energy, is concentrated in the heart chakra, and is the product of complete and balanced digestion. Ama is the toxic by-product that results from incomplete digestion. It is the digestive impurities caused by eating hard-to-digest foods or by following unhealthy eating habits. Ama, therefore compromises immunity and health.
At the foundation of immune maintenance is Agni, or digestive fire. When Agni or digestive fire is strong, the body metabolizes the food efficiently, and Ama (waste) has much less chance to accumulate. Ayurveda therapy focuses on kindling the Agni, the digestive fire of the body to digest toxins ensuring optimal physical and mental wellbeing.
What we can begin now:
Although Panchakarma therapy, a week-long purification process, is probably the most effective way to remove toxins, it is an intense commitment of time and money, and needs to be supervised by a trained practitioner. Perhaps something to do in the future, once Covid-19 restrictions allow for in-person therapy.
But here we are now, in the midst of Covid-19, in need of some remedies and immune boosts that are more accessible from home. Especially as flu season is on our heels. Whether you are feeling run down or just wanting to maintain strength and balance, it helps to incorporate an Ayurvedic regimen at home to help remove Ama, prevent its build-up and to boost your immune system naturally.
Try the following cleansing routine daily: Eat. Drink. Move. Sleep.
Eat a light diet for a few weeks, to help burn away rather than accumulate Ama. Eat warm, light, nourishing foods, including mildly-spiced vegetables and lentils. (We have some suggestions below).
Drink plenty of fluids, but particularly hot or warm filtered water. All day. Every day. Cold water constricts the blood vessels in your intestines and decreases blood flow, slowing digestive circulation. Room temperature water is a mainstay of digestive balance.
Move by walking, swimming, or biking, if your body allows. Daily yoga and pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) promote digestion by stimulating Prana (life-force). Finish this rejuvenating work with a self massage ( Abhyanga) with warm herbal oils such as the sesame oil, that helps not only our skin but also the tone of our muscles, and promotes relaxation. (Read our blog on Abhyanga here)
Sleep Try to be in bed by 10pm to enhance your sleep hygiene, and allow your body to replenish. A bedtime routine reduces stress and restores balance. If you stay up much past 10pm, your pitta rekindles, and you get that “ second wind” which keeps you up until 1 am. Sound familiar?
Avoid generating excess Ama:
Only eat a meal when you are genuinely hungry, and eat until you are satisfied, but not full. This allows your digestive processes to work more efficiently.
Avoid processed foods, cold foods or drinks, and heavy foods, such as fried foods. Try to avoid vegetables from the nightshade family, such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet peppers, as these create Ama.
In addition, the food that we eat is important, but the way we eat it is too. It is desirable to eat slowly, to chew the food well, so that we can maximize the process of digestion as well as the absorption of the nutrients.
Cooking: Ayurveda recommends cooking with a variety of spices to facilitate digestion and increase absorption of the nutrients. In addition to adding to the aroma and flavor, the spices have the Yogavahi ability, which means that they have healing, immune stimulating properties. The spices facilitate the digestion and help the body to fully absorb the nutrients from the food.
The different spices have their own specific immune stimulating properties:
Turmeric has a strong immune stimulating effect that is due to its ability to remove toxins from the body. It is also an anti-inflammatory.
Cumin helps to reduce the Ama by creating heat that cleanses the body and facilitates the strength of ojas energy.
Ginger is known as a natural digestive aid, balancing the intestines, and allowing for more efficient absorption of nutrients.
Cardamom and Cinnamon are commonly used to pacify the stomach.
*you can make a tea with all of these ingredients - adding oat milk, ghee (traditional Ayurvedic ingredient - for tea, too), or whatever you compliment your tea with. *no added sugar!